The North Dakota Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a state ban on abortion remains blocked while a lawsuit is pending over its constitutionality.
The ban was intended to take effect once the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. But a district judge had it suspended this summer while the Red River Women’s Clinic (RRWC) filed a lawsuit arguing that the state constitution protected the right to abortion.
“While the regulation of abortion falls within the authority of the legislature under the Constitution of North Dakota, RRWC has likely demonstrated success on the grounds that there is a fundamental right to abortion in the limited instances of life-saving and health-protective circumstances, and the statute is not narrowly tailored to meet strict scrutiny,” Chief Justice Jon J. Jensen wrote in the ruling.
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The law — one of several abortion-restricting measures passed by state legislatures in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Roe — includes exceptions to save the mother’s life and in cases of rape or incest. Otherwise, a doctor who performs an abortion would be charged with a crime, which abortion rights advocates say could prevent doctors from performing abortions even if the mother’s health is at risk.
The Red River Women’s Clinic — the state’s only abortion clinic — closed this summer and moved its operations a short distance from Fargo to Moorhead, Minnesota, where abortion remains legal. But the owner of the clinic is continuing the lawsuit.
“The court made the right decision and today sided with the people of North Dakota,” the clinic’s director, Tammi Kromenaker, said in a statement. “Those seeking abortion care know what is best for themselves and their families and should have access to such essential services as and when they need them. While I am heartbroken that we have been forced to close our doors here in Fargo, we will continue to serve the region at our new clinic in Moorhead, Minnesota.”
The North Dakota Supreme Court has upheld a ban on a state law that heavily restricts abortion, barring extenuating circumstances. (Fox news)
Messages were left at the office of North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley on Thursday.
Wrigley had argued that the injunction should be upheld while the lawsuit continues, saying Burleigh County District Judge Bruce Romanick erred in granting the injunction. Romanick has said the Red River Women’s Clinic had a “substantial chance” of succeeding in its lawsuit, but also said there is no “clear and obvious answer” to whether the state constitution grants a right to abortion.
Lawyers for the clinic had argued that Romanick’s decision to block the ban was correct.
When Romanick blocked the law’s enactment, he acknowledged that the clinic had moved, but noted that doctors and hospitals would still be covered by the law.
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Since the US Supreme Court in June overturned Roe v. Wade, the ruling that protected the right to abortion for nearly five decades, abortion restrictions have been imposed on states and the landscape has changed rapidly.
Thirteen states now enforce a ban on abortion at any time during pregnancy and one more – Georgia – bans it as soon as heart activity can be detected, or after about six weeks of gestation.
Getting abortions is becoming increasingly difficult for women living in prohibition states, in some cases resulting in more medical complications and in others requiring residents to travel for hours or even days to reach a facility that can legally provide abortions.
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Courts have suspended enforcement of abortion bans or far-reaching restrictions in Arizona, Indiana, Montana, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah and Wyoming. Courts in Idaho have forced the state to allow abortions during medical emergencies.